My digital life

I’ve had iPads for over a decade now, and I entrust them with more and more personal data as the years go by. Each iOS update and iPad upgrade has brought increasing functionality. The oohs and aahs of ‘look what this can do now!’ with every advance very quickly subside into just taking my digital best mate for granted in no time flat. But what if something 'happens' to it?

IPads are designed as our personal assistants, and as the years go by they’ve merged with us. They're indispensable, they know our past present and (via our diaries) our future. They hold our bank accounts, our socials, our preferences, our digital identities – and in an era of digital fraud, it’s becoming ever more necessary to keep them safe. Here is my essential checklist for keeping your digital best friend safe and sound.

Put a coat on

You’ve just unwrapped your shiny new iPad. ‘Ooh it’s so….thin!’.

Make it thicker. Treat the little darling to a case. There are plenty out there to choose from, but my favourite brand is Mous. You know, the videos where they drop them from planes and run over them with trucks. Whatever, but they are very strong, look good, they’re not bulky and they won’t fray. There are cheaper ones out there……but you get what you pay for.

While you’re at it, get a decent screen protector. By ‘decent’, I don’t mean one of those floppy bits of sticky back plastic that always bubbles no matter how careful you are. Get a tempered glass screen protector. No bubbles, clear as day and it won’t discolour like the plastic ones. Not that cheap, but well worth it – it’s saved my screen many times, as a tempered glass protector will crack before the screen does. So it is cheaper in the long run.

Passwords

Set a strong passcode - or better still, use Face ID or Touch ID.

In some versions of iOS, the default passcode length is four digits – hardly sophisticated for someone to hack.

Navigate to the Touch ID and Passcode menu, select the option for changing your passcode, then disable Simple Passcode. I’d suggest enabling the Alphanumeric Coce option and creating a longer code that’s harder to crack. Not your birthday - never your birthday! You can also decide whether you want your iPad to erase itself after a certain number of unsuccessful logins. A good idea, as long as regularly keep it backed up....

Updates and backups

Always keep your iPad backed up – you can do this directly to iCloud, or on a desktop or laptop Mac via iTunes or Music (depending on your OS). You can also choose whether to encrypt the backups. A regular backup regime can give you protection from cyberattacks and ransomeware.

Apple are well known for their regular security updates in the OS, so make sure that you keep up with the updates. Security updates always suggest to me that a bug or wormhole in the iOS has come to light, so I reckon that it's always worth doing sooner rather than later. You’ll get notified on your iPad if one is available.

Make your lock screen secure

So your iPad is locked, all good. Not necessarily. Notifications have a habit of popping up at any time, and you could be compromised if personal details show up – snippets of personal messages, emails etc.

Fix this by navigating to the Notifications menu in Settings where you can specify which apps will display on a locked screen – most apps will give you this option. Also disable Siri, which can be used to reply to message through a locked screen. I know, that’s nuts.

Turn on Find My iPad

It’s well worth turning this on in Settings, but it’s also worth making sure that if someone does get through your primary passcode they can’t block or turn off this feature. Go to the General menu in Settings and choose the Restrictions option – this is where you can set a separate passcode for Find My iPad and turn off the ability to use permission changes for Locations and Accounts.

Restrictions are also useful for stopping your kids from accessing your Apple Wallet!

Browsing and Apps

The first rule of apps is to make sure that you’re downloading something legitimate from a legitimate source – and for the iPad, that means the App Store. Don’t download from anywhere else.

It’s also wise to pay attention to app permissions, otherwise an app could be accessing your location, contacts and even your microphone without your knowledge. Access app permissions in two places –

1. Settings>>app name

From this menu, you can select specific permissions to allow or reject.

2. Settings>>Privacy

The privacy menu has different permissions headings (such as ‘microphone’). Form here, exclude apps that aren’t appropriate for you.

Whether you use the Apple native browser (Safari) or a third party (Firefox, Chrome etc.), your data may not necessarily be secure on the web unless you opt to browse in ‘private’ mode. This prevents website data being stored on your iPad, and ensures that any given web page can’t be 'seen' by other pages in open tabs. It also automatically prevents websites from tracking your browsing. I addition, some third party browsers offer more customisable security options.

You may also want to use a third party VPN (Virtual Private Network), which can protect your identity and can maintain your anonymity whilst browsing. A VPN is another line of defence against those wanting to exploit your personal data.

Advanced options

It’s a popular misconception that everything Apple is somehow immune to bugs, malware and hacks. Not so. The best cybersecurity defence that I’ve found is Malwarebytes. It’s good in its free form, but if you pay for it, you can just set and forget. It works.

You may want to manage multiple devices in your family, hone your personal privacy policy or protect and secure devices for your kids. Apple provide a tool for this – Apple Configurator 2, available in the App Store……and free!

Simples

If all of this seems a bit of a faff for you, it really isn’t. It’s nothing compared to the faff of having your iPad, money, data, or even identity compromised.


Thinking of buying an iPad from new? Think different.

Apple are working hard to reduce their carbon footprint, but computer manufacture is notoriously carbon and rare earth heavy - not to mention the sumptuous packaging!

We all have a part to play in maintaining the environment we live in. By buying a refurbished iPad, we are collectively reducing our carbon footprint and preserving the planet now and for our future generations. A good refurbished MacBook Pro or iPad is both a sound economic and ecological choice.